Excerpt from talk given by Giuvel Orozco at the 8th International Che Guevara Conference
Some book authors, professors, journalists, social researches, politician and historians has stated that one of the most remarkable aspects of the Cuban Revolution continues to be its internationalist vocation.
However, we should be just to say that many people of the world, have always been very much supportive with the cause for the independence of Cuba, the Revolution and the Cuban people as well. We knew on the attempts from Simon Bolívar, Liberator of America and the government of Mexico at the beginning of the 19th century, in preparing expeditions to free the Island of Cuba from Spanish colonialism and there are uncountable expressions of international solidarity with Cuba during our struggle for the independence, mainly from the American continent. We were proud off the presence of hundreds of foreigners on the ground, fighting alongside the Cuban people for their independence. I can mention on this occasion to Dominican Maximo Gómez, the north American Henry Reeve, the Polish Carlos Roloff Mialofsky (was born in Warsaw, Poland) or the Canadian William Ryan who was born in Toronto, participated in the first war of independence of Cuba from 1868-1878, reached the rank of Brigadier General and offered his life fighting for that beautiful cause.
On this background, I must also mention another symbol of international solidarity, in the closest history of Latin America, truly icon in the anti-imperialist struggle and for the sovereignty and independence of nations. Of course, I am referring to Ernesto "Che" Guevara, an inspiring figure, inextricably linked to the history of Cuba and our America, whose work inspires and guides us, and we welcome his name to inspire us in events such as this 8th International Conference in Vancouver.
The international support towards the last stage of the warfare for the independence of Cuba, leaded by Fidel Castro and reached finally on January 1st of 1959, was the same like previous periods. Women and men from all over the world helped, in various ways, the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959.
Then, a few years after the triumph of Cuban revolution while was assed the aide received by Cuba during different stage of the struggle for the independence, Fidel himself stated, “Internationalism is the most beautiful essence of Marxism-Leninism and its ideals of solidarity and fraternity among peoples. Without internationalism, the Cuban Revolution would not even exist. Being an internationalist is paying off our own debt to humanity”.
This feeling of duty and thankful towards woman and men from different countries has leaded the conduct of the Cuban Revolution. The solidarity vocation that the Cuban people, also showed towards noble causes in different parts of the world, became a principle to be followed by the State and the new revolutionary government. This principle got constitutional hierarchy since the Constitution of 1976 and remain as it in the new Constitutional text.
But young leader of the Revolution was awareness of that debt of gratitude of the newborn revolution could only be paid by building a solid and exemplary Homeland, ready to reach out to those who needed it.
The Revolution had to overcome all types of aggressions and threats, both internal and external such as:
- economic and trading measures taken by the government of USA in order to squeeze the live of the people and take away the popular support to the government;
- the invasion of Bay of Pigs which ended with the Imperialism´s first defeat in Latin American and the Caribbean;
- the October Crisis well-known as Missile Crisis;
- the draining of human resources needed by the country to its own development and using migratory policies as a weapon against the Cuban Revolution;
- the fight against bandits who served the Central Intelligence Agency, just to give a few examples.
At the same time, Cuba start a glorious stage of its internationalism and the aide for other peoples. From the early years of the revolution until now, Cuba has sent thousands of doctors, professors, engineers and other personnel, to various countries, but cooperation in the field of health care, mainly on humanitarian assignments, has had a highlighted role.
The medical assistance provided to the Algerian people started on May 21, 1963. Since that year, Cuba developed a systematic and institutional collaboration with several countries, which number increased rapidly, namely, Algeria and Viet-Nam in 1963, Mali in 1965, Congo (Brazzaville) in 1966, Guinea (Conakry) in 1967.
Owing to the prestige of Cuban revolutionary medicine, some States with considerable natural and economic resources, which were able to pay for this type of cooperation to other developed countries with which they share a long cultural tradition and keep good political relations ̶ preferred to request this cooperation to Cuba. For example, Iraq, Libya and Kuwait adopted this form of cooperation in 1978, 1979 and 1985, respectively. Angola and Algeria started in 1978 and maintain it up to date under mutually beneficial agreements of exchange of resources and services, with an important economic compensation (Compensated Technical Assistance).
Faced with the collapse of the socialist bloc in the 1990s, Cuba entered into a “Special period”, which brought about a new type of cooperation focused on the economic improvement of the Cuban people. This new type of cooperation was known as ´compensated internationalist missions´, by means of which Cuban collaborators were hired directly, and Cuba received an income in the form of remittances (South Africa, Brazil, Yemen, and Jamaica). However, in the mid-1990s, Cuba had three times as many doctors as the World Health Organization serving abroad and providing free medical treatment.
Special mention goes to the Henry Reeve International Contingent of Physicians Specialized in Situations of Disasters and Serious Epidemics, founded by Fidel, which has earned more reputation to the Cuban collaboration in this field. This contingent, made up by specially trained personnel, was founded on September 19, 2005, with the objective of providing immediate heath care assistance to any country affected by any kind of disasters, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or other natural disasters, or suffering from epidemics. The Henry Reeve International Contingent has rendered its services in more than twenty countries, has provided medical assistance to more than 3.5 million people and has saved more than 80,000 lives. I can remember right now the medical assistance provided for this brigade after different earthquakes struck Paquistan, Haiti, Nepal and Chile.
Since May 21, 1963, when Cuba officially began its international medical cooperation in Algeria, over 407,000 health professionals and technicians (including more than 183 thousand medical doctors) have fulfilled the honorable mission of saving lives and improving health indicators in 164 countries. Cuba has also trained almost 29,000 doctors from 100 countries at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM).
During these 56 years of medical cooperation, the humanist vocation of the Cuban Revolution and of the "army of white coats" that provides its support for the wellbeing of humanity, has been validated once again.
Our international cooperation effort currently involves about 33,000 professionals in 85 countries (including near of 29 African nations), who voluntarily provide services to the population in health care, education, construction, sports, among others.
In Cuba, there are 12,699 young people from 133 nations, who are currently trained as professionals. The links with most of these countries are a successful example of what the United Nations calls "South-South cooperation", based on complementarity and self-sustainability among developing countries.
As you may know, independence and sovereignty life of Cuba, have not been easy. Since the beginning of the triumph of the Revolution, the successive governments of USA have been strengthening the pressure on Cuba in order to force a regime change. Sabotages, covert operations to damage the key sectors of the economy and to commit the assassination of Fidel Castro and main leaders of the Revolution, armed invasion, diplomatic pressures, spy operations, the support with arms, financing and training to counterrevolutionary forces inside and outside of the isle, terrorist attacks, and a criminal blockade in force for almost 60 years, have been lived examples what Cuban revolution and its people have had to face.
In fact, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, while addressed to the Havana’s population at the moment he arrived at the capital city on January 8, 1959, he foresaw: “I think this is a decisive moment in our history: tyranny has been overthrown. The joy is immense. And yet, much remains to be done. We do not fool ourselves into believing that in the future everything will be easy; maybe in the future everything might be more difficult”.
The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the government of the United States of America against Cuba for almost six decades is the most unfair, severe and extended system of unilateral sanctions ever applied against any country.
The blockade has not only continued to be implemented rigorously against Cuba, but it has been significantly intensified as well. It remained extremely fort in the field of financial transactions but now it has been reinforced by many important areas for the economic and trade relations with the isle.
The United States Government has decided to activate Tittle III of the Helms-Burton Act, which allow taking action in US courts against entities that have legitimate commercial dealings or invest in properties legally nationalized in Cuba during the 1960s, thus violating International Law, the principles of the UN Charter, the rules established by the World Trade Organization and the sovereignty of other States. Its main goal is to hamper Cuba’s capacity to attract direct foreign investments to support its development.
Since April 2019, the United States has implemented another set of major coercive measures aimed at denying Cuba access to financial resources and depriving the Cuban people of its main sources of income. It once again put a cap to the remittances that Cuban residents in the U.S. send to their families, prohibited travel by cruiser for American citizen to Cuba and restricted even further travel by plane, ended “U-Turn” transactions limiting Cuba´s access to the U.S. financial system, and imposed sanctions against insurance and reinsurances companies, ships and shipping companies involved in transporting fuel to Cuba.
The USA’s government has prohibited travel by cruiser for American citizen to Cuba and restricted even further travel by plane, aimed to reduce the amount of tourism visiting Cuba and damage a key sector in Cuban economy due to its dynamic and productions chained with other sector and Cuban enterprises, damaging even the private sector in Cuba linked with this activities.
The accumulated damage caused by the blockade to Cuba and the Cuban people in almost six decades amounts to $922,630 million, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar with regard to the price of gold on the international market. At current prices, the blockade damages amount to $138,843.40
Despite of this adverse framework, Cuban people have managed to make substantial progress, and they have continued to intensify their revolutionary transformation with the goal of building a society that is increasingly just, free, democratic, caring, participatory and prosperous.
Some educational and health indicators reached by the Cuban population can be compared with rates of the most developed countries.
- The infant mortality rate is 4 deaths per 1,000 live births.
- Life expectancy at birth of the Cuban population is which has reached an overall average of 78.45 years.
- maternal mortality rate has been reduced to 38.0 deaths per 100,000 live births.
- Likewise, as a result of the Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, in the last three years mortality rates due to this disease have ceased to grow.
- Cuba counts with a Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and a Cientific Pole which have done incredible results in this field, In a short period of time, taking into account the average of time and resources needed to scientific researches, Cuba has developed more than 50 biotechnological products to meet a large portion of the nation’s needs in diagnostics, analysis, vaccines, and high-tech products, while representing great economic potential given their value added.
- Cuba has carried out policies prioritizing investment in education, science, and technology, as well as the application of scientific research in the productive process, and in education itself.
- The country currently invests 10% of its GDP in education, and more than 1% in research and development.
- Cuba has more than 40 institutions of higher learning and the teaching is provided at not cost for the population. It also has more than 200 scientific research centers across the island.
At the end of the year 2010, was begun the talk of updating economic and social system. After deep and broad debates with the population, were approved and updated by the Congress of the Communist Party held in 2012 and 2016, respectively, the guidelines of the economic and social policy of the party and the revolution. After that, was submitted to a broad process of popular consultation the project of new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. It received near 800 000 proposal of amendments that led to change 60% of the articles of the original project. On October 24, 2019, was submitted to popular referendum the Constitutional project. At that time, a 90.15 percent (8,705,723 people) went to the polls and 86,85 percent of them (6,816,169 citizens) gave their approval to the new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba while 9 percent (706,400) voted No. As you can see, all Cubans had the opportunity to participate and contribute to the most important decisions for the life of the nation. The new Constitution makes significant changes to the country’s political, social, and economic order. I understand, tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to debate about the constitutional reform in Cuba.
As our president Miguel Díaz – Canel said on October 10, while taking possession of the new position of the President of the Republic: No one is going to take from us the confidence in the future which we owe our children.
And I want to finish with a phrase which is very popular in our country and show the strong will of Cuban people to defend the conquers of the Revolution and the developments plans that we have chosen: "Whoever attempts to take Cuba will collect only the dust from its blood-soaked soil, if he does not perish in the fight."
Thank you to all of you for your attendance and your tireless support and solidarity towards Cuba.
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